60 lawmakers call on Administration to strengthen Justice40 commitment to ensure Inflation Reduction Act’s climate, clean energy ​investments are directed to frontline communities

Washington (September 6, 2022) – Today, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chair of the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17), Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13)​, Vice Chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Environment, and Oversight Committee Member Rep. Cori Bush (MO-01) led their colleagues in a letter to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Office of Domestic Climate Policy urging them to strengthen the Biden-Harris Administration’s implementation of the Justice40 Initiative, to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from the federal government’s investments in climate and clean energy to disadvantaged communities. Justice40 implementation is even more critical after President Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which will provide $60 billion to remediate environmental injustice, as well as the ongoing deployment of $350 billion in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to support more equitable federal, state, and local infrastructure projects.  

The lawmakers wrote, “To maximize benefits and correct for chronic underinvestment, we strongly recommend that implementation guidance clarify that the Initiative’s 40% target is a funding floor, not a ceiling.  We also recommend that the guidance apply this target to investments in disadvantaged communities, not only to overall benefits in such communities.  Direct investments are the clearest path to achieve a flow of at least 40% of benefits to the intended communities, as well as to ensure Justice40’s accountable, long-term success.”

The letter continued, “We strongly support the Administration’s efforts to direct funding and resources to communities to redress discrimination, fight pollution, and cut emissions in support of President Biden’s climate, environmental justice, and equity goals.”

The lawmakers urged the Administration to:

  1. Consider the 40 percent Justice40 goal to be a “floor” and not a “ceiling” of ​direct investments to disadvantaged communities.
  2. Ensure programs covered by Justice40 “do no harm” in disadvantaged communities by either increasing pollution or greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Ensure programs covered by Justice40 offer good jobs with good benefits, with a focus on members of disadvantaged communities in hiring.
  4. Establish a Climate Justice and Equity Office at OMB to centralize its responsibilities to oversee a “whole-of-government approach” to Justice40.

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), ​Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Representatives Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D. (NY-16), Shontel M. Brown  (OH-11), André Carson (IN-07), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-11), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Danny K. Davis (IL-7), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Lloyd Doggett (TX-35), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-02), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Sara Jacobs (CA-53), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), ​Al Lawson (FL-05), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-08), Donald McEachin (VA-04), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Kweisi Mfume (MD-07), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Katie Porter (CA-45), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE), Linda T. Sánchez (CA-38), ​John Sarbanes (MD-03), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Adam Smith (WA-09), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Mark Takano (CA-41), Bennie Thompson (MS-02), Juan Vargas (CA-51), Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07), ​Maxine Waters (CA-43), and John Yarmuth (KY-03) joined the letter.

The lawmakers’ efforts include key environmental justice asks of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Executive Action Agenda, and the letter is supported by leading environmental justice groups including Indivisible, United Frontline Table, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Sierra Club, Green New Deal Network, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, Center for Economic Democracy, People’s Justice Council, Alabama Interfaith Power and Light, Ironbound Community Corporation, People's Action, MoveOn, California Green New Deal Coalition, Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy, ​Clean Energy Group, and Sunrise Movement.

Read a copy of the letter HERE.

"We thank the Administration for acknowledging, through the Justice40 Initiative, the long suffering of communities throughout the country that suffer from historical environmental injustices. However, we are concerned with the lack of investment that should accompany the acknowledgement. Leaving it up to states to shape these investments means that we are following the same paths that have historically debilitated our upward mobility in the South. The Administration should do everything in its power to make sure states and communities on the ground get resources they need, and that means strong Justice40 rules and enforcement . Tracking benefits to communities is not enough, we need direct investments and 100% of justice." - Reverend Michael Malcolm, People’s Justice Council Alabama

“For Justice40 to be the transformative legacy-establishing program we all wish to see, we need all levels of government fully engaged. We feel our government at the community level, we are most likely to know who our mayors and city council folks are. The federal government should be asking states and municipalities directly how they can be a part of the changes Justice40 can bring. Justice40 needs to be the talk around town so that every community member helps us hold accountable agencies, states and municipal governments. This is the way to a real ‘all of government’ approach.” - Maria Lopez-Nunez, Ironbound Community Corporation

“California’s legislature recently killed AB 2419, the California Justice40 Act, a bill that would have committed the state to President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative by ensuring targeted investment of federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to frontline and disadvantaged communities. Without that bill, and with added concerns that the IRA contains elements that will cause harm to those communities, our hope now is for the Biden Administration to keep its word and strengthen rules to its J40 Initiative in order to address those harms while ensuring investments land in the hands of disadvantaged communities.” - Zach Lou, California Green New Deal Coalition

"President Biden's Justice40 Initiative is an opportunity to correct the legacy of pollution in Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor communities in Michigan and around the country. But, the federal government must also ensure that no new harms come our way from projects such as fossil fuel infrastructure, carbon capture technology, hydrogen, and nuclear energy. Those projects are incompatible with the principles of Environmental Justice, and they will not deliver any benefits to our people or the planet. The Justice40 Initiative should not count them as beneficial in any way. Instead, it must prevent and keep track of any harms from false solutions funded in the Infrastructure, Investments and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act." - Juan Jhong Chung, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition.

“Communities of color were critical to getting President Biden elected. With the Justice40 Initiative Biden made a commitment to ensure federal investments materially benefit frontline communities, and we are looking to him to deliver on his promise. His administration must not delay any further its final guidance to agencies on Justice40. The initiative has the potential to direct historic levels of critically-needed investments to communities at the frontlines of pollution and climate crisis who need them the most. The administration should listen to leaders in Congress echoing grassroots demands to implement Justice40 comprehensively, with deep engagement of impacted communities at every level of implementation, and to ensure no federal investments do harm to any communities.” - Adrien Salazar, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

“President Biden was listening to frontline communities who have long been organizing around targeted investments to impacted communities. Now, as the Administration is preparing its final guidance on J40 it is critical the White House follow the leadership of frontline organizations and strengthen the initiative by sending funds directly to frontline communities, creating good local jobs, centering justice, and ensuring the guidance is incorporated quickly. We thank the Congressional champions who worked to uplift these voices and this fight, and know it is due to the hard work of organizers and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis that the boldest possible guidance will be won.” - Ann Clancy, Indivisible

"Members of Congress should be commended for this bold set of recommendations and reform ideas to advance Justice40 and fulfill its promise as a whole-of-government vision of ensuring justice for frontline communities in the climate transition. With the Inflation Reduction Act, there is a mix of positive and harmful investments, which means that fully applying Justice40 is all the more important. Roosevelt Institute is eager to see Justice40 flourish as part of a better climate future, and we are grateful to partner with the United Frontline Table and other grassroots leaders in developing the strongest possible policies and rules toward advancing that goal. It is essential that the Administration follow through in implementing Justice40 by protecting communities from continuing harm and ensuring that federal resources for what they truly need are reaching the most impacted communities." - Lew Daly, Roosevelt Institute

“Clean Energy Group fully endorses the immediate adoption of these recommendations governing the implementation of the Justice40 Initiative. It is imperative that strong guidelines are put into place to ensure that Justice40 results in transparent, clearly beneficial, direct investment in communities most harmed by legacy fossil fuel infrastructure, systemic racism, and chronic underinvestment and strengthens those most vulnerable to hardships exacerbated by the climate crisis.” - Seth Mullendore, Clean Energy Group